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July 20, 2005

Quagmires, Quagmires...

Sometimes, despite optimum conditions, military higher-ups find it’s difficult to adhere to the simplest troop-withdrawal timetable. F’r instance, SFOR-10 was supposed to depart Bosnia in mid-March of 2002, in order to comply with the orders which activated us for a deployment which was “not to exceed 179 days.” After repeated alerts and stand-downs, most of the folks departed during the third and fourth weeks of March, including the Infantry, which left the Virginia and New Jersey remnants of TF Pegasus, the Aviation contingent, with the somewhat dubious chore of guarding -- ourselves.

And on 1 April, the Virginians left, leaving the defense of sprawling Camp Comanche to seventeen stalwart Joisey lads ‘n’ lasses (Note the only one in the photo who’s *armed*). My post was the fuel farm -- cuz I was the only one who had more than three rounds of 9mil. Didn't bother me until the kids started calling me, “Old Expendable”…

And sometime during the third and fourth week, we got our amended orders, which nailed us in-place for a period of time “not to exceed 279 days.” I promptly sent out the following e-mail…

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There will be a written examination as the culmination of the SFOR-10 rotation experience. Since there will be no time available to conduct a review of the subject material, you will find a representative sample of the examination below. A passing grade will entitle the you to receive your choice of either two college credits from the University of Maryland (Eagle Campus) or one boarding pass on a military aircraft departing Tuzla on the day that you *thought* you were supposed to be leaving…

Sample SFOR-10 Qualifying Examination

Read each question thoroughly. Answer all questions. Time limit: four hours.

· General Knowledge: Describe everything you know in detail. Be objective, specific and concise.

· World History: Describe the evolution of all major religions from their earliest known origins to the present day. You may substitute Zoroastrianism for any other contemporary fire-worshipping Indo-European religion. Prove which is the one true religion in a manner that will convince everyone else.

· Combat LifeSaving: You will be given a double-edged razor blade, a piece of gauze and a bottle of muscatel. Remove your own appendix. Do not suture until your work has been examined by a proctor. You will have 15 minutes to complete the operation.

· Public Speaking: 2,500 fire-worshipping, gauze-clad muscatel drinkers armed with double-edged razor blades will storm into your classroom as soon as you have finished reading this. Calm them using any ancient language except Demotic Egyptian or Mycenaean Greek. Do not use passive voice.

· Biology: Create life. Estimate the subsequent differences in the rise of human culture if this life-form had developed 500 million years ago, giving special emphasis to the effects on the next Presidential election in Peru. Prove who will win and why.

· Music: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate it and accompany yourself with flugelhorn and drum. You will find a piano in the middle drawer of your desk.

· Psychology: Evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment and repressed frustrations of each of the following individuals: Alexander the Great, Amenhotep II, Gregory of Nicosia, Joan of Arc and Hammurabi. Support your evaluation with at least three quotations from each person's work, cross-referencing as appropriate. It is not necessary to translate.

· Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct a 1/32nd-scale experiment to test your theory.

· Political Science: You will be given a two-Euro coin. Proceed to the nearest pay phone and start World War III. Report on its socio-economic consequences, if any.

· Management Science: Define both management and science and their intrinsic relationship with the works of J.R.R. Tolkein and H.P. Lovecraft. Create a generalized algorithm that can be used to optimize all managerial decisions. Design the systems interface and prepare all software necessary to program this algorithm onto an Apple MacIntosh. Use only those applications found in DOS 3.0.

· Engineering: You will find the disassembled parts of a Civil War-era Sharps rifle in various drawers of your desk. You will also find an instruction manual for making gunpowder, printed in Sanskrit. In 10 minutes, a hungry Kodiak bear will be admitted into your room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision to PETA.

· Economics: Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the National Debt. Trace the possible effects on plate tectonics, the wave theory of light and the overcrowding of CB radio channels.

· Epistemology: Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

· Physics: Explain the nature of matter. Your answer must include an evaluation of the impact of the development of quantum mechanics and Boolian algebra, plus the possible effects of beta radiation on the Hubble telescope’s infrared imaging systems.

· Philosophy: Sketch the development of human thought and estimate its significance. Compare this with the development of the other kinds of thought.

· Military History: Explain why the United States never lost a war in which the Army used mules.

· Extra Credit: Define the universe. Give three examples.

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Geez -- even *I* didn't get higher than a B+...